To advance meaningful education in today's schools, teachers are expected to work successfully in classrooms and communities made up of students from multiple and intersecting diversities. Likewise, teacher educators are challenged to assure that among the multiple diversities they will address, the needs of students who have disabilities will be met (Blanton, Pugach, & Florian, 2011). However, despite the fact that many teacher education programs have long required a course or courses in special education for general education teachers (Holland, Detgen, & Gutekunst, 2008; Jones & Messenheimer-Young, 1989; Voltz, 2003), the achievement of students who have disabilities--the majority of whom receive a high proportion of their education in general education classrooms--continues to fall behind that of their peers (McLaughlin, 2010).
Increasingly, a common response to the persistent low achievement of students who have disabilities by teacher educators at the preservice level is to develop collaborative programs of teacher education. This term refers to program redesigns that bring together teacher preparation for general and special education, often leading to graduates obtaining licenses in general and special education, or dual licensure (Blanton & Pugach, 2007, 2011), although the way dual licensure is earned can vary widely and reflects varying degrees of program redesign (Blanton & Pugach, 2011; Young, 2011). The development of collaborative preservice programs has been stimulated by the teacher education provisions of federal legislation (e.g., No Child Left Behind [NCLB], Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) and, more recently, with direct federal funding by the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education, for approximately 70 preservice programs to engage in curriculum redesign via a set of "325T" project grants (National Center for Improving Personnel Preparation in Special Education, 2012).
The rhetoric surrounding collaborative programs often suggests that they are designed not only to improve education for students who have disabilities, but more broadly to respond to the multiple diversities of students in the schools. As such, collaborative teacher education programs seem to be predicated on better preparing teachers for the complex and diverse ecologies of their classrooms and school communities. How the rhetoric of diversity, inclusivity, and "all students" plays out within teacher education curricula that have been combined to achieve this goal, however, has not been investigated systematically.
In keeping with the theme of this special issue, the purpose of this exploratory, descriptive study was to illustrate and look critically at the preservice curricula of a small number of early adopters of collaborative programs, focusing on the ways they address the relationship between diversity and disability. In particular, the study begins to interrogate the meaning of these collaborative teacher education reforms through an analysis of the curricula of three long-standing teacher education programs in the United States that have fully merged the preparation of general and special education teachers. In the typology of collaborative programs developed by Blanton and Pugach (2007, 2011), such merged programs are defined as a single, fully combined curriculum for all candidates, and all graduates earn a general and special education license on completion. This contrasts with integrated programs, where a redesign of the general education preservice curriculum occurs to assure a stronger base of preparation for all candidates, but only those who are expressly interested in seeking special education licensure continue on for that purpose, built intentionally on the redesigned base program. Using program information located on institutional websites and course syllabi as principal data sources, the analysis focused on how these merged programs have inscribed three central concepts: (a) diversity, (b) inclusivity, and (c) the boundaries of general and special education. …